Ogling Willem Dafoe…err…um…y’know, motion capture and Beyond: Two Souls…remember that?

Hey, friends. I’m exhausted. Exhausted in about every possible way that a human being can be exhausted. I blame Trump. And I’m not kidding. I used to have a happy-go-lucky, take-it-or-leave-it relationship with the news. But ever since Trump took office, the news has become fucking oppressive. His latest round of asinine comments concerning Charlottesville have only bolstered what we all already know. He is an moronic troll. He may be able to build a bridge, literally, between two roads over a chasm, but he, himself, is the the chasm, and we need to build a bridge over him. Goddamn if it all isn’t enough for me, for anyone, to want to curl up under a rock and hibernate until the people in this government come to their senses. (Which, it seems, may finally be happening! *tenuous ray of sunshine*)

Blergh. I wanted to write a real post today, something about Phoenix Wright, because I’m pretty sure that I’m flat-out addicted to the Ace Attorney games, but I just don’t have the will right now. Instead, I’m posting one of my blasts from the past. Enjoy.

Oh and, heads up for anyone who cares, there won’t be a new Ac!d Commander video up on Friday, as I’ve not had a chance to edit the next video yet. I’ll post my requisite apology that morning.

SIGH. There’s always next week, I guess.

During a recent review of the contents of a couple old USB drives that I had forgotten that I stashed away, I found a handful of articles that I had written for a gaming site that went defunct. Since I hate for words to sit unread (even those in incoherent, rambly sentences), I decided I might as well share them here. Here’s one from around February 2013 in which I briefly examined the “hot, new” thing in gaming: motion capture via Beyond: Two Souls. Looking back, the article might have been more an excuse to stare extensively at Willem Dafoe (face sensors or not), but what’s girl to do? He IS Willem Dafoe, after all…so wild and weird. It also inspired this post where I furthered my thinking about certain famous people and video games, which you can find over on Objection Network.

Willem Dafoe has been all over recent gaming new.  Yes, the quirky star of The Last Temptation of Christ, The Boondock Saints, and Spider-Man (2002), is starring in the upcoming Quantic Dream game Beyond: Two Souls. Take a gander at the video below if you’ve not already seen it.

The game looks quite promising, and the animation is pretty stunning.  The game comes out in October, which is proving to be a heady month for games.

But what’s really got my attention concerning Beyond: Two Souls is the crossover between Hollywood and video games. At its core, this is nothing terribly new — big-name actors have been voicing games characters for years. But only recently have some A-listers come out from behind the microphone to don motion-capture suits and endure the strange and intriguing  process that is acting in a video game. Besides Dafoe, Beyond: Two Souls also stars Inception‘s Ellen Page (as well as Kadeem Hardison for anyone who might remember A Different World.) Recognizable celebrities have also popped up numerous other recent games, such as L. A. Noire (John Noble – Fringe, Greg Grunberg – Heroes), Brutal Legend (Jack Black and several rock legends), Saints Row: The Third (Burt Reynolds), and Mass Effect (Seth Green).

In the not so distant past, celebrities made headlines for jumping the movie ship for television. Are we possibly witnessing the beginnings of similar movement, one where Hollywood denizens are ditching the standard fare for video game work? Interestingly, Backstage recently published an article titled “Growth In Performance Capture Helping Gaming Actors Weather Slump,” which discussed, among other things, the evolution in gaming from motion capture to performance capture. Motion capture involves recording one’s movements — walking, running, fighting. It’s been used in video games since the days of Mortal Kombat. In most of today’s cinematic games, multiple people play single characters. Actors do the character performance; stunt people do the fight work and action scene; voice-over actors take care of the voices. But performance capture involves recording one person doing one character’s full range of abilities, as in the case of Dafoe and Page and Beyond: Two Souls. In the Backstage article, Lev Chapelsky, founder of Blindlight Studios, which helps provide talent and resources to the video game industry, hopes to see more performance capture in the future, as it offers the “seamless integration” of characters into their games.

So again, going back to Dafoe, had he simply done motion capture and voice-over, we’d get his look and his voice, but not his performance — that would be taken care of by another actor covered in ping pong balls or code and algorithms concerning human movement. And looking at the video…I mean, it takes guts to do performance capture. Sensor-covered skin-tight suits, more sensors all over the face, acting in a space that’s absolutely foreign from the game — I can only imagine that it’s tough to conjure up a true and believable performance in that atmosphere. And it’s one thing to do a minor role, like John Noble in L. A. Noire; it’s another thing entirely to be a main character, someone who’s supposed to span hours upon hours of game time.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing not only the game but also what becomes of Beyond: Two Souls. Despite their popularity and evolution, video games still harbor old remnants of unsophisticated reputations. (I won’t get into the “video games as art” notion here, though those ideas do come into play.) For many (but not us devoted gamers), video games hold the low stature once reserved for television when compared to movies. So it’s good to see the boundaries between video games and “higher” media broken, if only in one game. Has Defoe or Page ever played a video game? Do they just see this work as something to just fill their coffers? I doubt their motives are so severe. After all, they aren’t the Jane and John Does of Hollywood. I’m sure they had the choices to take on bigger movie or TV roles; and yet, they chose to fully devote themselves, bodies and minds, to Beyond: Two Souls.  I, for one, hope this is a vision of things to come.


  1. Cool write up and a blast from the past. Saw the pic of Willem Dafoe and was drawn to this article. It’s interesting reading this and getting the understanding between motion capture vs performance capture. In the wake of Hellblade, I think it’s clear the tool of performance capture can make games art and works wonders. I was drawn to Hellblade initially after seeing the making and how they captured Melina Juergens performance. I also do hope games keep running with this kind of stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hellblade’s behind-the-scenes stuff is really amazing, and the game looks gorgeous! For developers seeking to make game characters who are more “real” than not, motion capture is likely going to be the way to go. It’s not perfect for everything, obviously, but when the need calls for it, there’s no better option. And the person behind the sensors doesn’t have to be a really famous person; but I imagine the recognition doesn’t hurt, either.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Trump says a lot of daft stuff, but I did agree with him on condemning both sides. White supremacists obviously deserve flack, but I am no fan of Antifa either. Beating up people you disagree with and destroying property is pretty heinous.

    For me, Beyond Two Souls was disappointing. The effects are brill and they hired some talented actors (I’m suprirsed Dafoe is considered a hunk btw) but the gameplay wasn’t my cup of tea. They could have done more with the mechanic of controlling a spook. When it comes to interactive movies I prefer Until Dawn or the Telltale stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I supremely disliked Trump’s handling of Charlottesville, I can’t argue with you on that point. Dangerous extremism is dangerous extremism, no matter which side.

      I wanted so badly to like BTS, and I did like parts of it, but the game ultimately fell flat. It’s too bad, really, because if the Qunatic Dream folks had only injected a little more heart into the game (and taken away ALL the QTEs, haha), I think the game might have soared. But, they tried. The greatest actors in the world can’t make up for a bland story, however.

      Dafoe’s charismatic, not necessarily hunky. And I wouldn’t call him a looker. But I admire the way that he commits himself to his roles, even the bad, campy ones. (Him as the Green Goblin? Hoo boy.)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a Canadian looking in on the goings-on south of the border, I truly feel for you and everyone else that’s in your boat. I keep waiting for the “new” office to catch its stride and stop being so… well… asinine, but it obviously hasn’t happened yet.

    I’m glad you can at least dive into games and news about games to take your mind off of things. I’m not going to lie – Willem Dafoe is not a name I’ve ever heard before, but I’ll also be interested to see if the trend your described here takes hold. It would be smart for some celebrities to jump into gaming roles!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve already seen lots of celebrities voicing roles in games, so it seems logical that maybe more of them might eventually step into motion capture. But, from what I understand, it’s difficult work. Just watching (again, after a while) the Beyond: Two Souls “making of” video puts me in awe of the discipline and physicality involved in mocap. Plus, there’s something cool in being forever immortalized in this way.

      Oh, but IRL, I’ve no more words. I’ve said my peace and have returned to more foward-thinking. We, the nation, the world, have survived worse. This nonsense, as horrible as it is, is only a drop in the bucket. We will all live on.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. He’s a butt. I’ve called him way worse, but it’s late, and I’m sleepy. Butt seems appropriate because he’s full of shit. This is why we have video games…and alcohol. I share your weariness, but thrive on interacting with my blogger (and sometimes IRL) friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahahahahaha. Ha. This made me laugh, not at you but with you. I assume you’re talking about Trump, and I agree — he IS a butt! I was so supremely grumpy last week, that I might have been better off not posting anything at all. Ah, well.

      Liked by 1 person

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